Please welcome Joshua Palmatier to The Qwillery. Shattering the Ley, the first novel in Joshua's new series, was published on July 1, 2014 by DAW.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Joshua: Thank you for having me here as a guest. Nice digs. I started writing in the 8th grade, after my English teacher assigned a short story (500 words) that was supposed to be a Twilight Zone kind of story. I wrote “Aquantica,” about a man looking out the porthole of a launching spaceship as Atlantis was destroyed by water below. The English teacher wrote at the top of the story, “This was good. You should write more.” And that was the end of that. I realized someone was actually writing all of these stories and books I was reading . . . and why couldn’t that be me?
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Joshua: Oh, I’m a definite pantser. I’m forced to write plot synopses now in order to sell a book before it’s written, but my editor, Sheila Gilbert, understands that what’s in the plot synopsis might not be exactly what she gets in the finalized version. Usually, what I actually produce is much, much better. Because when I sit down to write, I let the characters take over. I may have a few thoughts about where the book is headed, but I learned (the hard way) with Vacant Throne that I can’t force the characters or the book in a particular direction. It just won’t work for me. So I trust that my hind brain and the characters know what they’re doing and let it work itself out. This way, I’m entertained as I write as well.
TQ: Shattering the Ley is your 4th published novel after the 3 novels in the Throne of Amenkor fantasy series. How has your writing process changed from when you wrote the Throne of Amenkor novels to Shattering the Ley?
Joshua: Hmm . . . well, I don’t think my writing process has changed all that much over that time period, except in more mechanical things. For example, I learned writing the Throne series that I really, really need to keep more detailed notes about people, places, and things. I found writing the second and third books in that series that things I’d taken for granted in terms of consistency in the first book had gotten “forgotten” during the production process of the first book. I had to go back and reread portions of Skewed Throne in order to get details correct. So I’ve got a better bookkeeping system for that kind of thing now (not that will completely keep me from making mistakes). Also, I learned from my editor that I need to keep more careful track of time intervals in stories. I can’t just handwave and say “about a week went by”; I need to be more precise and specify eight days. Most of the time it won’t matter, but there are instances where it’s crucial. So little things like that have changed. But none of the major writing process has changed. I still sit down and let the idea take control.
TQ: You've also co-edited two anthologies: After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar (2011) and The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity (2012). How has being an editor affected your writing?
Joshua: Ah, editing was a whole new experience! It taught me many, many things and increased my respect regarding the patience of my own editor. I believe “wrangling cats” is a phrase often uttered by editors worldwide and now I know why. In terms of how it affected my writing . . . well, I try to smooth out as much of the editing process ahead of time, so my editor can focus on the big issues. So after I’ve written the book, and am going back to do my own revision, I think more about what I can change that will make the editor’s job easier. She doesn’t need to deal with the small stuff.
TQ: Describe Shattering the Ley in 140 characters or less.
Joshua: You ask the impossible (I’m not much of a Twitter fiend). But here goes: Wielder Kara and guardsman Allan: two commoners caught in a tangle of ley lines, politics, terror, and secrets that may destroy Erenthrall.
TQ: Tell us something about Shattering the Ley that is not in the book description.
Joshua: Also hard, given that I don’t want to spoil anything either. But I guess I’d go with the group of guardsmen called the Hounds. These are men and women who are chosen because they have a special talent for hunting using scent—they can determine whether a person has been in the area for days after the fact, if not more. Their training is intense and brutal, and because of this and their talent, they appear normal but are somehow still unnatural. If you ran into one, the hairs on the back of your neck would prickle, but you wouldn’t be able to determine why. One Hound in particular becomes critical in how the events in Erenthrall play out.
TQ: What inspired you to write Shattering the Ley? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?
Joshua: Well, the base idea for the book was the ley lines. I remember reading tons of fantasy novels in the 80s and they all seemed to have ley lines in them. To the point where I vowed I would never write a book that had ley lines in it. And yet, what really bothered me the most about all of those books wasn’t that they contained ley lines . . . it was that I felt the ley lines in the books were never actually USED in any significant way. Not the lines themselves. Often, books would revolve around the stone monuments that were supposedly erected at the intersections or power centers of the lines (places like Stonehenge), rather than the ley that supposedly generated that power. This kept niggling at me, until the base idea behind the setting of Shattering the Ley gelled: What would a society be like that tapped into this energy, augmented it, and then used it as their form of electricity? That’s when I finally realized I could write a book about ley lines . . . I just had to manipulate the base idea enough to make it into something I hadn’t seen or read before, something my own. And this is why I like writing fantasy: it provides you with a setting where literally anything can happen . . . within the bounds of a reader’s belief anyway.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Shattering the Ley?
Joshua: Confession time: I hate research. I will do practically anything not to do it. Just ask my co-editor Patricia Bray. When we were editing After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar, I had to write the genesis story behind the magical bar that traveled through time and how Gilgamesh had become the bartender. I’d never read about Gilgamesh, but I was convinced I could write the story without that minor issue getting in the way. Patricia ended up sending me three or four books on life in that time period, along with a translation of Gilgamesh’s tale, all of which I diligently read. And yes, it did make the story I wrote richer. So I do research when I absolutely have to (which is pretty much most of the time). For Shattering the Ley, I will admit that there wasn’t as much to do overall, because I’d set up the world (it wasn’t on Earth) myself. So my research was for more mundane things like the mechanics of clocks, what certain items smelled like, how make-up and perfume was made, etc. Base things that I needed for the main character Kara, for the Hounds, and other things. All necessary to make those scenes richer and more real . . . but nothing like the more extensive research I did on Gilgamesh.
TQ: In Shattering the Ley, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Joshua: Oh, the easiest character was Kara Tremain, my main character, mostly because she was the one who stepped forward and took control. She was the one who wanted to tell me her tale, and those characters are almost always the easiest to write, since in essence I’m just jotting down what they’re telling me. And those types of characters always get pissed and let you know it if you try to make them do things they don’t want or wouldn’t do. As for the hardest . . . I’d have to go with Baron Arent, the most powerful Baron in the Baronies of the plains, mostly because he was the one who saw the potential of the ley and seized it. He was difficult to write, because I didn’t want him to come off as insane or even unstable, yet I wanted him to be dangerous. It’s easy to write bad guys if they’re out of control, because they don’t have to have reasons for anything. It’s much harder to write an intelligent bad guy who totally believes that what he’s doing is right and be able to convince others (even the reader) that he’s right as well.
TQ: What's next?
Joshua: Ooo . . . you opened that box, eh? *rubs hands in glee* Well, of course there are the sequels to Shattering the Ley, tentatively titled Threading the Needle and Reaping the Aurora. I’m over halfway through the second book now (I hope) and am looking forward to the third. I also have a few anthology projects with Patricia Bray in the works. The first, called Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens, is set to be released this July or August. And we’re developing another called Temporally Out of Order. Both have some spectacular authors as contributors, including some New York Times bestsellers. And then there are my own short stories, including one called “Daughter of the Sands” to be included in the anthology Apollo’s Daughters, out this fall. After that . . . who knows? I have at least three other series brewing inside my head now, two of which tie in with the Throne of Amenkor books. I’m certainly not short of ideas. If you want to keep track of everything, you can friend me on Facebook (search for Joshua B. Palmatier) or follow me on Twitter (@bentateauthor). Or you can find me at www.joshuapalmatier.com, www.benjamintate.com, or www.zombiesneedbrains.com. I also blog at jpsorrow.livejournal.com. (Yes, LiveJournal, I know. Don’t judge.)
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Joshua: Thanks for having me!
Shattering the Ley
Shattering the Ley 1
DAW, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages
Erenthrall—sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day.
At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen and unnatural assasins.
When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Alan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined . . . and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction -- or its salvation.
The Skewed Throne
Throne of Amenkor 1
DAW, November 7, 2006
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
Originally published in Hardcover
One young girl holds the fate of a city in her hands-If she fails, it spells her doom-and the end of her world.
Twice in the history of the city of Amenkor, the White Fire had swept over the land. Over a thousand years ago it came from the east, covering the entire city, touching everyone, leaving them unburned-but bringing madness in its wake, a madness that only ended with the death of the ruling Mistress of the city. Five years ago the Fire came again, and Amenkor has been spiraling into ruin ever since. The city’s only hope rests in the hands of a young girl, Varis, who has taught herself the art of survival and has been trained in the ways of the assassin. Venturing deep into the heart of Amenkor, Varis will face her harshest challenges and greatest opportunities. And it is here that she will either find her destiny-or meet her doom.
The Cracked Throne
Throne of Amenkor 2
DAW, November 6, 2007
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Originally published in Hardcover
Ruled by the Mistress of the Skewed Throne, the city of Amenkor has weathered attacks by invaders and the plague of madness brought by the mysterious White Fire. On the brink of civil war and mass starvation, the city turns to an inexperienced new Mistress, an orphan who has risen from the slums to claim the power of the Skewed Throne. Can Varis harness her survival skills and save Amenkor from ultimate destruction?
The Vacant Throne
Throne of Amenkor 3
DAW, January 6, 2009
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
The thrilling final novel in a remarkable fantasy trilogy
Ruled by the Mistress of the Skewed Throne, the city of Amenkor has just survived a devastating invasion by the mysterious Chorl, paying a terrible price both in the loss of lives and destruction in the city itself. Yet perhaps the most crucial loss is the throne of Amenkor—the true seat of power in every sense—now totally drained of the magic, knowledge, life force, and memories of previous rulers. The city's only hope lies with its sometime ally, the city of Venitte, home to the only throne that is twin in power to Amenkor’s...
Joshua Palmatier is a professor of mathematics at SUNY College of Oneonta, and has published five books with DAW—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne), and the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame) under the name Benjamin Tate. He has also published numerous short stories and, with Patricia Bray, he has edited two anthologies. Recently, he has become the founder/owner of a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, which will focus on producing SF&F anthologies.